Friday, March 01, 2013

A thrilling bird concert

Curve-billed Thrashers and Northern Mockingbirds are two of my favorite birds. They are actually closely related—both members of the bird family Mimidae. Their bodies are nearly identical, but the slightly-smaller mockingbird is grey, white, and black, while the thrasher is mostly grayish brown. Mockingbirds have yellow eyes and a short straight beak, while the thrasher’s eyes are orange and its bill  long and distinctly curved. Both birds eat insects, seeds, and berries, though the thrasher is more of a desert dweller than the mockingbird, which is often found in urban environments.

Mockers new backyard 007          CU curve-billed thrasher 11-12-2012 12-22-40 PM 497x855

Mockingbird                                    Curve-billed thrasher (Sue Feyrer)

Both birds excel at singing. Nearly everyone has heard the beautiful, ever-changing trills of a mockingbird in the spring, but not everyone knows that thrashers can sing nearly as well. The thrasher’s ordinary call is a piercing upside-down wolf whistle (whit-WHEET!), but their song is beautiful and very melodious.

This morning at Tohono Chul Park I heard beautiful birdsong on one of the desert trails. As I approached, a mockingbird flew into a tree above me, but it was not singing. I followed its gaze to see this beautiful thrasher singing its heart out.

Curve-billed thrasher singing on a saguaro


  1. I LOVE mockingbirds (have since I was a tot). We have some crazy-ass singers here -- just vocally all over the place. But that thrasher is stiff competition!

    1. Mockingbirds are among my three favorite birds (I'll let you guess the other two). But those thrashers knock my socks off. I'll try to get a video someday of the "wolf-whistle" call. It's quite amazing.

  2. Sweet! (Or should I say, "swit-SWEET"?)
    I love the mimidae too! I adore hearing the mockers sing!!!

  3. I miss hearing mockers sing. They were always around at my old place, but I hardly ever see (or hear) them here. Luckily, we have them in the Park.